Local beer businesses have built more beer breweries and begun importing foreign beer brands to meet high consumption demand, industry experts say.

During the first four months of the year, local beer businesses produced 714.6 million litres of beer of various kinds, a surge of 9.2 percent over the same period last year, according to a report from the Ministry of Planning and Investment.

Market research company reports say the beer industry has reached a year-on-year growth of 15 percent.

Vietnam is one of the largest beer consumption markets in the world.

Local newspapers report that consumption of both Vietnamese and foreign beer brands have been increasing and would continue to rise.

Because of the huge demand, many beer breweries, with a capacity of hundreds of millions litres per year, have been built in recent years.

As of March, the Sai Gon Beer Alcohol Beverage Joint-Stock Corporation (Sabeco) opened three beer breweries in Quang Ngai and Ha Nam provinces at a cost of 2 trillion VND (96.71 million USD), with a total capacity of 300 million litres per year.

In February, Sabeco also began construction on the Sai Gon – Ha Tinh Beer Company at a cost of 480 billion VND (23.31 million USD), with a capacity of 50 million of litres per year.

Sabeco has also increased the capacity of the Sai Gon – Cu Chi Beer Company, scheduled to open this year, to 264 million of litres per year.

In addition, the project to build Sai Gon – Vinh Long Beer Company with a capacity of 200 million of litres per year will start within this year and finish by 2014.

The Sai Gon – Ninh Thuan Beer Company, built last month on an area of 200 ha at a cost of 680 billion VND (32.88 million USD), with a capacity of 50 million of litres per year, is expected to be operational next year.

Sabeco is expected to produce an additional 500 million litres of beer next year.

A report from Sabeco said the company has targeted a growth rate of 14 – 16 percent in 2011–15, with output expected to increase by 13 – 15 percent per year and reach 1.8 billion of litres by 2015.

Meanwhile, David Teng, executive director of Viet Nam Beer Ltd Company (VBL), told Tuoi Tre (Young People) newspaper that VBL would spend 68.1 million USD to increase the capacity of the beer brewery in HCM City 's District 12 from 280 million of litres per year to 420 million of litres per year over the next 12 months.

In recent years, companies have imported many foreign beer brands. At supermarkets and retail shops, foreign beer brands are displayed for sale along with local beer brands.

These foreign beers, made in Mexico , Germany , Belgium and the Netherlands , have become popular with Vietnamese even though the prices are two to three times higher than locally made beer, according to Tuoi Tre newspaper.

Many foreign beers are imported to HCM City via ports, with Cat Lai Port in District 2 receiving the largest amount of imported beer in the southern region.

According to the customs branch office at the Sai Gon Port border-gate, beer imports last year increased by 50 percent over the previous year.

For at least a decade, the country has even imported many foreign beer brands that have already been produced in Vietnam .

Currently, Vietnam has about 350 beer breweries nationwide, 20 of which have capacity of more than 20 million of litres a year. Fifteen have capacity of over 15 million./.